AS I SEE IT - 4/28/2003:
Stamford, we have a problem...
by: Bob Magee
Most of you have already read in this past week's wrestling news that WWE has finally figured out that they have a problem.
Buyrates for the last Wrestlemania are reported to be as much as 35-40% below predicted levels, with widespread rumors of resulting layoffs of WWE staff. US
Nielsen ratings are down for RAW and Smackdown.
Accordingly, as fans entered the WWE Smackdown/Velocity tapings in Nashville, TN on April 22nd, they were handed a questionnaire to fill in. Those that filled them in received a free WWE magazine. There are some who have suggested that those fans answering in Nashville that night might well have scribbled anything to get their free magazine.
Another such survey was done at Backlash in Worcester Sunday night, this one 6 pages long, asking questions about the WWE product. Some of the survey questions included the reasons fans watch WWE programming, and also what they identify each brand with.
Along with this step, I've also heard that, in an additional attempt to gauge fan perceptions of their product, WWE may place this
questionnaire on their website in the near future to allow fan feedback. Even if this doesn't occur, I think it would be worthwhile to see if WWE is really interested in what fans think.
Below is the survey that WWE gave to those fans in Nashville last week. I'm going to suggest that readers of this column tell WWE exactly what
they think by cut and pasting these questions (and their own answers) into an e-mail and to sent it to WWE at FanServices@wwecorp.com.
I know what many of you reading this will say... WWE isn't going to pay real attention to anything that is said by fans, and that this is just an attempt to appease a vocal group of fans.
It is true that WCW did a similar survey about 18 months prior to the demise. In that case, fans gave the sorts of answers about the WCW product of the time that you'd imagine. WCW management disregarded the answers, and the individual responsible for doing the fan survey resigned his position shortly thereafter.
We all know what happened to WCW.
So let's assume that doing this survey means that Vince McMahon learned from WCW's experience. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt, and hope he has, anyhow.
First, the way to get anyone from WWE seriously to take answers to such a questionnaire seriously is for those submitting answers to take it seriously. If fans send in surveys, with such answers as "HHH
sucks... get him off my screen", WWE will (with good reason) disregard the results.
Maybe, just maybe... if fans answer in an intelligent way, WWE will pay some attention, and give a thought or two about making the radical changes in their product that are necessary to recapture fan interest.
If you'd like to take a look at the tone of the kind of intelligent and heartfelt response I'm hoping for, check out the excerpts of a letter about this subject that was written on A1wrestling.com's message forum.
The letter, by A1wrestling forum regular "Freakfish" was heartfelt, and are written by someone who was clearly a bigtime WWF/E fan. He explains, in an intelligent way, why he isn't going to buy Backlash, and why he was going to stop watching the WWE product. He also happens to have a
Nielsen box in his house.
Read what he says...
I just wanted to take a little time out of my day to write you a letter of thanks. After the end of last night's episode of RAW, I figure it's the least I can do.
You see I have been an avid WWF/E fan for the better part of two decades. As a kid posters of Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake adorned my walls next to the likes of Lawrence Taylor and Larry Bird. My multi-year subscription to WWF Magazine sat on the windowsill, arranged neatly by month and year kept in mint condition, or as near to it as I could manage.
There were Ultimate Warrior wall hangings, Bret Hart sunglasses, and who knows how many other pieces of paraphernalia picked up at house shows at the Hartford Civic Center or the New Haven Coliseum or ordered through your merchandise catalogue.
As a college student, I lost track of the WWE. With no cable in the dorms and then 4 roommates when I moved off campus, my addiction to Monday Night RAW was broken whether I liked it or not. However, when I graduated in the spring of 1998, I came back like a junkie looking for a fix and I've been hooked again ever since. I was there for the boom, and man, was it easy to get sucked back in.
Breakdown in September 1998 was the first Pay Per View event I had purchased in years, and in the time between then and now I don't think I've missed more than a handful of shows. As an adult, I have remained a loyal consumer to your company and want very much to remain so.
Unfortunately, I don't think I can do that anymore.
I've put up with a lot over the past few years. Your loyal fans have put up with a lot, and we have shown that no matter what we are willing to ride out the lows in order to experience the highs once again; to the tune of hundreds of thousands of us tuning in week after week, despite the decline in quality of your programming in the past couple of years.
But after last night I think it is time to say enough is enough. The longer I continue to watch RAW and hope for a change for the better the more I feel like a chump and it's grown tiresome.
If you don't know what I'm talking about please go back and watch the tape of last night's main event match for the World Heavyweight Championship between Booker T and Triple H. Now, I'm not going to say that I expected Booker T to win the match, and walk out of Atlanta as the champ. And to tell the truth, I don't think anyone expected as much.
Just listen to the crowd for the first half of the match through the commercial break, and the extended heat segment that Triple H got on Booker T. If you closed your eyes, you would think this was an empty arena match.
This is your main event, in what used to be something of a wrestling town, between your world champion and one of his supposed contenders. A Wrestlemania rematch, and here is the crowd in Atlanta sitting on their hands because they have been trained to know that Booker T, in the end, has about as much a chance of walking out the champ as I do on any given night. He is no threat to Triple H, and is treated as such by the fans who see him treated as such by the WWE as a whole.
But then there was the second half of the match. See, at heart we are all wrestling fans who keep coming back for more; which is to say that no matter how many websites we visit, or how many rumors we read the day of the show, we still tune in to watch and cheer and boo and be entertained because we love it.
So here is Booker T, making his comeback and all of a sudden the crowd is buying it. They are cheering for two counts and thinking that every big move Booker hits might be his last.
And for a second I believed again too. Chump that I am, I believed that you were going to pull the trigger on something new and give us something to actually cheer for. I didn't care that Shawn was the ref and that if Booker won the title it would probably be tainted. I didn't care that the real focus would be on Triple H getting screwed by the clique. I just wanted to hear the pop when Booker won. I was desperate for it. This was fun. And then there was Triple H down on the mat. And there was Booker T on top for the pin. And there was Shawn to count.
And then it all went to shit.
I knew it. And the crowd knew it, too. Yeah, maybe we're too on the inside now, and too jaded to simply cheer the face because that is what we are supposed to do.
But don't go blaming the Internet this time. It wasn't the Internet that produced Tough Enough 1-3. The crowd knew that they had been had again, and that they should have known better. We're too smart for this now. Isn't that what you wanted?
Go back and watch the tape.
Better yet, listen to it. It wasn't booing. It wasn't heat. It was nothing. It was a void. The screwjob killed that crowd. The Nash/Triple H/Michaels intrigue took the wind out of everyone's sails and the whole building just died....
And for me something changed. It ended. It was the proverbial last straw. I wish I could say I don't care anymore, but that would kind of make this letter the work of a hypocrite. I do care. I want things to change and I want them to get better, but I don't care enough to watch this stuff anymore. Call me when it gets interesting again...
...And so I guess that's about it. Fifteen years of watching down to yet another screwjob to build towards yet another Pay Per View match that frankly, I don't care about.
And if the point has been lost in my verbosity, let me make it clear to you right now: I am the hardcore WWE fan. I am the one that wouldn't leave.
That was me: signing my name to a week's long waiting list when my 6th grade gym teacher was letting kids borrow his copy of Wrestlemania IV for a weekend at a time.
That was me: up in the nosebleed section with my face painted like Animal from the Legion Of Doom at Survivor Series 1990.
That was me: spitting my gum out and swatting it with my hand in an homage to Mr. Perfect when playing pick up basketball in the park.
That was me: freaking out when Bobby the Brain showed up at SummerSlam with the Big Gold Belt.
That was me: watching Flair/Savage from Wrestlemania VIII so many times that I wore my tape out.
That was me: kicking myself for missing out on the Austin/Hart Foundation angle in 1997.
That was me: that shook my head at the birth of a hand but kept tuning in anyway.
That was me: watching The Radicalz help spike an 8.0 rating.
That was me: shocked by how flat out great Triple H was in 2000.
That was me: thinking we were seeing the torch being passed from Austin and Triple H to Benoit and Jericho in that tag match.
That was me: shocked at how badly the WCW Invasion was handled.
That was me: shaking my head when Hogan, Hall and Nash came back as the NOW, knowing things were only going to get worse.
That was me: disappointed in the way Austin left, but understanding why he did.
That was me: racing home to New York City from Boston at 80 miles an hour just so I could catch the midnight to 4AM replay of Wrestlemania XIX, as burnt out on the product as I was, because I didn't want to wait two days for the next replay.
And this is me now: saying thanks, but no thanks, to more of the same old song and dance. This is me finding something better to do with my Monday nights. This is me, pocketing the $30.00 I would have spent on Backlash. This is me tuning my television (equipped with a Neilson Box) to something other than what you are showing. The 50,000 homes I represent leaving your Tuesday morning business meetings.
So I just wanted to drop you a line to say thanks. It's been fun, but entertainment (and trust me, I get it: entertainment is what you are all about) shouldn't have to be this frustrating. Thanks for the memories, WWE. It was fun while it lasted. But I'm afraid that it's over now."
I think "Freakfish" speaks for a lot of people that are dissatisfied with the current WWE product.
Now, if you ARE satisfied with the WWE product, tell them so, too. The idea behind this isn't to have 1,000 people e-mail them and blindly trash them. Because, to be honest, that's likely what they expect.
Instead, it's time to show that Internet wrestling fans aren't the morons that some within wrestling take them to be. It's time for them to show they
are representative of a significant segment (if not a majority) of the customer base of WWE.
Take some time and show those in a position of authority in Stamford, CT, that you are exactly that. Show them you have a brain. Show them that you know what you like and what you don't like.
Explain to them about the time and money you've invested in their product over the years, and why they should take what you say seriously.
Take some time with this... tell WWE what you feel and send it to FanServices@wwecorp.com.
- Do you enjoy watching established superstars (i.e. Rock, Triple H, Austin, Undertaker)?
- Do you enjoy watching younger stars (i.e. John Cena, Matt Hardy, Brock Lesnar?
- Would you rather see different nationalities or races portrayed in the WWE?
- Would you like to see new divas?
- Would you like to see more older superstars (i.e. Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Roddy Piper)?
- Would you rather see more sexual content?
- Would you rather see more in-ring action?
- Would you rather see more backstage drama?
- Would you like to see bigger (i.e. Brock Lesnar) superstars?
Again, answer it intelligently, say what you feel and send it to FanServices@wwecorp.com.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)